JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Businesses in the Jacksonville area are being targeted by scammers claiming to be with the Jacksonville Electric Authority and threatening to shut off power to the business unless the owners pay up.
News4Jax has covered the scam over the years, but now it’s back and business owners said the scammers have become a lot more convincing.
Bill Gordon runs Gordon Automotive on the city’s Westside and got a concerning phone call Wednesday afternoon.
“I received a call and he said he was a technician for JEA. (He) said they were going to turn lights off for 25 minutes unless I agreed to give them some money, ‘immediate payment’ was their exact words,” Gordon said.
He said the man on the line claimed to be a JEA employee and was very adamant that Gordon had to pay his bill in minutes over the phone, or risk having his power cut.
“I was researching at the same time whether I had paid the bill. I knew I had and wanted to get the information. He didn’t want the information, he wanted money. And I got the bill, I got the check number, he told me not to go to JEA to make a scene,” Gordon said.
Gordon said he knew it was a scam but it was, frankly, pretty convincing.
News4Jax called the 888 number back and spoke with the man who claimed to be a JEA operator.
“Welcome to JEA. Residential customers press 1,” the man who answered said.
When News4Jax asked if it was JEA, the man responded.
“One moment sir. My brother Tony will want to talk to you,” he said.
Then no one ever picked up again.
News4Jax spoke with Gerri Boyce, a JEA spokesperson, who said they’re very familiar with this scam. She said these scams hit the city in waves; for weeks at a time they’ll target residential customers, then switch to businesses.
Boyce also said scammers are getting more and more creative every year. She pointed out that JEA will never call out of the blue, threatening to cut the power.
“These folks are so wily and it goes through cycles. They will hit residential customers, and then they will go after (business) customers. We’ve seen them go after animal hospitals, restaurants, dry cleaners, nail salons. And the reason they do this is they’re effective. People fall for it,” Boyce said.
Boyce said if someone wants to know if there’s a problem with their power, check their account first. JEA will send multiple notices if anyone’s power is ever threatened to be turned off.
JEA said people can also call them if they have any questions on whether it’s legitimate.